Writing with Interviews

Interviews provide a plethora of content that could enable a writing instructor to demonstrate principles of rhetoric and composition.  As one of the most ‘intimate’ public genres of communication, they offer a most rare opportunity to evaluate performances of character as a method of persuasion. We gain knowledge about narratives from interviews, as they are a rich site to learn about characters, acts, agencies, purposes, scenes, synchronicity, and their appeal to human’s emotional appetite for drama.

I have included sample activities under each link.  Please contact me if you use them or adapt them for your classroom purposes.  Your feedback will enable me to further improve these resources!

60 Minutes Interviews

According to its website:  “”60 Minutes,” the most successful television broadcast in history, begins its 44th season on September 25, 2011. Offering hard-hitting investigative reports, interviews, feature segments and profiles of people in the news, the broadcast begun in 1968 is still a hit in 2011, regularly making Nielsen’s Top 10. Over the 2010-’11 season, “60 Minutes” continued its dominance as the number-one news program, drawing an average of 13.36 million viewers per week – a 1 percent increase over last season and more than twice the audiences of its network news magazine competitors and more than five million viewers ahead of the most-watched daily network evening news broadcast. The average audience for a “60 Minutes” broadcast still dwarfs the biggest audiences drawn by cable news programs.”

Discussion Questions

  • How is this program organized?
  • What characteristics of its format account for the program’s success?
  • What types of questions are asked?
  • What types of individuals ‘count’ as 60 minutes-worthy?
  • In what ways does 60 minutes shape your ideas about a “good” interview?  Good investigative reporting?  Good news?

Writing Activity:  Thought Experiments about Cultural History

  • Browse through the types of ‘characters’ 60 minutes has featured in any given decade.  What patterns did you observe?  How does looking through the 60 minutes archive provide a glimpse of cultural history during that time period?
  • Watch any interview from a decade, in which you are unfamiliar.  What would you need to know for the interview to be more meaningful to you? Using ProQuest newspapers or Google News, research at least three references discussed in the interview.  Write a reflection, in which you describe how your findings enable you to more comprehensively understand our contemporary cultural context.

NPR Interviews

Writing Activity:  An Exercise in Evaluation

Browse through NPR’s interviews.  Pay close attention to any trends/patterns between them.  Establish your own organization system for them.  What “types” of interviews exist?  Which ones seem to capture your interest the most and why?

Writing Activity:  An Exercise in Discourse Analysis

The Paris Review:  Interviews with Writers

Do you recognize any of the writers featured on the homepage?  If so, click on their name and listen to their interview.  Also, click on one of the writers you are unfamiliar with.  What interested you in this writer?  What did you most vividly recall about their interview?  In what ways did both of these interviews influence your perceptions of what it means to be “a writer?”

Slashdot Interviews

Who is featured in Slashdot interviews?  What do these interview subjects tell you about the nature of this website, its audience, and purpose?

InterViews:  The National Academy of Science

Choose any of these interviews.  Was the information in the interview accessible to you?  Interesting?  Why or why not?  Also, comment on why you selected the interview you watched.

Who is the audience for these interviews?  In what ways might someone majoring in science, technology, or engineering use these interviews for their personal and professional growth?

Great Interviews of the 20th Century; also Various Correspondents discuss their, “Most Memorable Interviews.”

What makes these interviews “great?”  Write about what you think makes for a “great” interview before you choose one of the interviews to write about.  After you watch it, discuss whether or not you feel its a ‘great’ interview.  Be sure to comment on other interviews you’ve seen that you think are “better” and explain why.

Noam Chomsky Interviews

Why is Noam Chomsky such a prolific figure?  What is he typically interviewed about?

Interviews with Archaeologists

Which archaeologist did you choose to listen to?  Why?  Comment on the type of impression this interview left on you.

Writing about Interviewers

Each of the persons below are prolific figures in journalism and/or entertainment.  Any class discussion could benefit from evaluating how these figures came to be valued for their interviewing abilities, assessing the forms of their techniques, and considering how their unique backgrounds and experience contributed to their success.

Oprah Interviews

Charlie Rose Interviews and Talks

“Emmy award winning journalist Charlie Rose has been praised as “one of America’s premier interviewers.” He is the host of Charlie Rose, the nightly PBS program that engages the world’s best thinkers, writers, politicians, athletes, entertainers, business leaders, scientists and other newsmakers. USA Today calls Charlie Rose, “TV’s most addictive talk show.” New York Newsday says, “Charlie’s show is the place to get engaging, literate conversation… Bluntly, he is the best interviewer around today.”” (Excerpted directly from his About Page)

Katie Couric Interviews

@katiecouric is an online program featuring candid, in-depth interviews with newsmakers from the worlds of politics, business, medicine and entertainment. (excerpted directly from her Twitter Bio)

Diane Sawyer’s Biography

Access transcripts of previous Larry King Live shows

Edward R. Murrow Biography

(Courtesy of the Museum of Broadcast Communications)

Stephen Colbert Interviews

Jon Stewart Interviews

Authors of Atlantic Short Stories

The Talks:  Online Internet Magazine featuring Interviews with Cultural Figures

Pretty Cool People Interviews:  Folks Who in the Moving Image Profession

Matt Lauer Bio

Major Assignment Activity:  Interviewing a Peer

Preparing for Conducting Interviews

After considering what makes a “good interview subject,” as well as what constitutes a good interview and interviewing ‘persona,’ apply these skills to a classmate.  Up to this point, we have done the following free-writes:

  • What can you do or make?
  • Why did you choose your major or why can’t you decide?
  • What does living in a global information economy mean to you?
  • Have you ever joined a community that surprised your friends and family?  If not, what prevented you from doing so?

Ask them to share their free-write portfolio with you and develop a list of questions that would give you more insight into what makes this person a ‘character.’  Consider their abilities and accomplishments and contemplate how your questions enable us to value this person for some achievement, skill, or notable event they have endured.  Your objective?  Your question design, spontaneous interaction, and presentation of this person must appeal to the audience’s memory:  both the interviewer and their subject demonstrate that they are unique and admirable.

Interviews will be recorded on a podcast.  Your most impressive moments will shared with your peers during the final three days of the unit.  They will give you anonymous feedback via Google Forms, which will contribute to my evaluation of your successful execution of this assignment.

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